What is your background in terms of design and art?
At school it was a mix of maths, music technology, psychology and photography. After that I studied Maths and Computer Science at Oxford University. In my final year there I designed an algorithm which automatically composed music.
On the back of that I started doing a PhD in the engineering department at Queen Mary University of London where I mostly worked on how wider social and cognitive factors can shape someone's experience when engaging with an interactive music system. So even though I was in an engineering department, it was a lot less maths oriented than most of the research being done there.
So you have more of an Computer Science background and never got a specific design education?
Yeah I guess so. Essentially I was never really trained in design beyond High School so it was more like learning by doing in that field.
How would you describe your work process, especially when you're creating something mainly through code?
I think to some extent my work process is always evolving. Much of my work is dealing with the emotional impact you get from space and how that's shaped by music or light. And I think when I start my work process there's a combination of experience and a concept of what I want to explore. Opportunity is also an important factor because there are always tiny fragments of ideas and when an opportunity arises those ideas start to grow.
Recently I've been collaborating with dance artist Jan Lee and that really shaped my work process as well. One thing we found out very quickly was that the process of creating dance is very different from coding because of the different timescales in which things happen. When you are coding it takes you a long time to create something but once it's finished it can be repeated endlessly. Whereas in the choreographing process, new ideas can be instantly tried out in the studio but a lot of work happens later in rehearsal to perfect things, at which point the interactive systems need to be finalised.
The full interview is available in the printed issue of Point of View.
- The Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford is a world-leading centre of pioneering research that addresses global challenges.
- Jan Lee - Phone box dance 1